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Google Testing an Airborne Camera Drone 182

mbone writes "The Blogoscoped site carries news that Google has purchased a German 'Microdrone' for evaluation (here is the original German version). These devices can take off, fly a mission, and land automatically using GPS. They can carry night-vision cameras or even 'see-through-walls' Far IR cameras. Of course, the maker of these drones assures us that they cannot be a 'Big Brother in the sky' because that is 'verboten.' Is it just me, or is Google entering dangerous airspace here? It seems like the ruckus from a backyard-after-dark addition to Street View could completely overshadow the legal tussles Google has already encountered with its street-level photography." Reader Jaymi clues us to another airborne effort a couple of Google employees are mounting with some help from NASA Ames: the NexusOne PhoneSat project — to determine if low-cost mobile phone components can withstand space travel.
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Google Testing an Airborne Camera Drone

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  • Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by supertrinko ( 1396985 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:19PM (#33183166)
    As long as the only pictures they take are legal ones from public places (including airspace), I don't have a problem.
  • Can... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cap'nPedro ( 987782 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:20PM (#33183174)

    They can carry spy-o-scopes, but that doesn't mean they will.

    In fact, they aren't even mentioned in either linked article as far as I can see.

  • Re:Can... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:28PM (#33183246) Journal

    They can carry spy-o-scopes, but that doesn't mean they will.

    Yes, because everyone knows that Google would never spy on anyone.

  • Re:Privacy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:33PM (#33183288)

    As long as the only pictures they take are legal ones from public places (including airspace), I don't have a problem.

    I might agree if they are abiding by FAA rules. I doubt that's the intent because the images they would get at that attitude would be little more than satellites give now. Also I doubt the FAA would see the humor of these buzzing around aircraft airspace. The problem becomes how far above your house are you comfortable having surveillance drones flying? Do you see a problem with them looking in your second story bedroom window? It's disturbing that privacy itself is becoming a quaint old fashion concept.

  • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by supertrinko ( 1396985 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:33PM (#33183290)
    There is only a need to update the pictures of places that are changing, like your example of a construction site. Constant picture taking of the average persons property is considered harassment.
  • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by supertrinko ( 1396985 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:41PM (#33183340)
    The problem there is when it becomes "surveillance", In my own country, you must have a warrant for that. Taking pictures of the inside of a home is considered surveillance. How far above my house? Interesting question, it doesn't really matter how high I say, as camera quality is getting better all the time, it's the quality of the picture that should matter. Should they be allowed to take pictures from airspace that can see your property as well as if you were standing on the roof? I don't think so. Remember, I'm speaking of the back yard here, what you show on the front yard is practically a public display.
  • by interfecio ( 1023595 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:41PM (#33183344)
    ...more efficient, and faster to get up to date imagery for maps than to wait and pay for satellite imagery. Military has these planes that fly by themselves to take pictures to update maps. This looks like it's just the civilian sector following lead. I can only imagine that aligning and presenting imagery data from an aircraft is a lot easier and requires less compute/man hours than satellite imagery. Especially if the need is only for new imagery of a small area.
  • Re:Pull! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adamdoyle ( 1665063 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:47PM (#33183378)

    If you don't have the mental capacity to recognize a joke then you don't have the capacity to form educated opinions on legal issues.

  • Re:sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlyMysticalDJ ( 1660959 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:50PM (#33183406)
    I thought that was facebook...
  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:01PM (#33183464)

    I am really surprised news organizations have not started using these to cover situations.

    Live from Irag/Afghanistan/Mogadishu/Pakistan ...

  • Re:Opt-Out file? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:24PM (#33183642) Homepage Journal

    Does the law in your area prevent you from painting your rooftop with a shocking picture of your choice?

  • by aitikin ( 909209 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:44PM (#33183808)
    This is the first article linked, emphasis mine:

    German publication Wirtschaftswoche (“Economy Week”) says [] that German manufacturer Microdrones has delivered a cam-equipped flying mini drone to Google. Microdrones boss Mr. Juerss is quoted as saying “We have good chances for a long term business relationship with Google” (is he just overly optimistic? Google wasn’t available for comment to the magazine). According to him the drones “are superbly suited to deliver more up-to-date recordings for mapping service Google Earth.” Another potential use mentioned by Juerss is inspecting wind farms.

    If Google continues to exist I guess it’s only natural they continue to expand their tools (same could be said for the world at large), lest laws stop them. For the time being we may want our faces and living rooms blurred, but who knows where we’re headed. Will there be a day where everyone’s non-privacy is our best privacy protection (like a camouflage pattern), or will we be scared to do anything unusual, creative and progressive with so much supervision (like 1984)?

    In the original German article, they mention how some of the drones they've sold have been equipped with IR and thermal imaging technologies, and give you a teaser that you can come back on Monday to read about the companies that already use the technologies.

    Sounds to me like Google is merely trying to vastly improve Google Maps and Google Earth's satellite views with cheap yet efficient technologies, and Wirtschaftswoche is just trying to sell magazines. Of course, who am I to be a naysayer of the tinfoil hat wearing among us...

  • Backyard party (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @07:24PM (#33184068) Homepage Journal

    So you don't have a problem with them taking a picture of your backyard party and posting it if you have a privacy fence so its not visible from the street?

    I have a problem with it, and yes i realize its 'air space' but they are crossing a moral line if they start doing that.

  • Re:Can... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @08:42PM (#33184596)

    I wish the constant benefit of the doubt given to Google by many Slashdot readers would end. CEO Eric Schmidt came out and said that only people who have something to hide care about privacy. They "accidentally" scanned and archived WiFi network data. It's an ethical issue, if not a legal one, and it never hurts to be diligent when a single entity has so much power and gathers data on millions, if not billions, of people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @08:55PM (#33184662)

    We have the right to bear arms, in part, to defend our rights. Bringing down a privacy-invading drone with a dose of bird shot sounds perfectly within the constitution to me.

  • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:18PM (#33184820) Homepage Journal

    At the Avalon airshow a couple of years ago there was a little electric UAV which is pretty much an inside out version of the Hexacopter. It had two counter rotating props inside a plastic shell.

    I used to work for our state road authority and I could immediately see an application for incident management on freeways. We had CCTV cameras on every bend in the road so you could see any crash site and get fairly close with zoom (we had good lenses) but the goal is to book the correct emergency response as early as possible. A small UAV could hover around a crash site and send back CCTV images of the injured people inside vehicles. You could park the aircraft on the CCTV pylon and (as that guy was trying) leave it charging until required.

    But wind is the problem, particularly if you need a stable camera platform. Lightness gives you endurance but it reduces inertia.

  • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:18PM (#33185442) Homepage Journal

    Given that, I don't grok the value of the GPS-guided flight, unless they're planning to use them only outside the US or to sell them to the military.

    Outside the US is a big place, and quite a good market.

  • Re:2001 attack (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @11:41PM (#33185570)

    If they weren't authorized, I am sure it was overlooked. Whoever made the decision to image the WTC location, made the right decision.

  • by mgblst ( 80109 ) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:21AM (#33186168) Homepage

    If this was the CIA, DoD, a major law enforcement agency, or hell a small one, this wouldn't even be up for debate. It would be Bad.

    The are already doing this.

    If it were Microsoft, HP, Halliburton or Blackwater/Xe, it would be Terrible.

    You know why? These companies have already proven themselves to do bad stuff, in the name of getting more money. Google have not done that yet.

    It is like find a serial killer at the door, or a girl scout selling cookies. If we are to react as you would, you would treat them both exactly the same. There is a reason you listed those particular companies, as opposed to say Ben and Jerries, Dupont and Kmart.

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken